Local Sports from The Courier
Saturday, November 24, 2012Division VI State Semifinals: Panthers 'went down fighting'
WAPAKONETA -- McComb went down swinging.
The Panthers had trouble putting anything together on offense in the first half.
The second half was a different story.
The Panthers stormed back from a 21-0 halftime deficit to force overtime, before falling to defending state champion Marion Local 34-28 in triple overtime in the Division VI state semifinals at a jampacked Wapakoneta Harmon Field on Friday night.
"These kids are fighters, they have been all year. They fought back against Delphos St. John's last week and they fought back again here tonight," said McComb coach Kris Alge, who led the Panthers to a 13-1 record and the school's first state semifinal appearance since 1983.
"We told them to keep fighting, keep fighting, we're the Panthers."
Perhaps the key to McComb's second-half turnaround was senior quarterback Dalton Buck.
Buck and McComb's offense struggled moving the ball in the first half. Buck's pass on McComb's opening possession of the game went for a 32-yard interception return by Marion Local's Adam Bertke.
Two other McComb possessions in the first half ended in fumbles, and another ended in disaster when a punt snap sailed over Jerry Brown's head, giving Marion Local the ball at the 17-yard line. The Flyers (13-1), who will play Newark Catholic in next week's Division VI state title game in Massillon, cashed in on the miscue to make it 21-0 at the half.
"At halftime we didn't play well. We had turnovers that resulted in points for them with the pick six and the snap over the punter's head," Alge said.
"I think a lot of our problem was our tempo. I think maybe we were just a little too fancy trying to run the ball in the first half."
The Panthers went back to basics and Buck stepped up big time in the second half to put the Panthers in position to win.
Buck, who was just 8 of 14 passing for 67 yards and an interception in the first half, went 25 of 36 for 297 yards with three touchdowns and a pair of interceptions in the second half.
After a solid defensive stand late in the game by the Panthers' defense, Buck found a wide open Brown for an 88-yard touchdown with 4:42 left to cut Marion Local's lead. He also hit Cody Wilson for a 15-yard scoring strike with less than 2 minutes to play to tie the game at 21-21.
Buck also had a key interception to snuff out Marion Local's first overtime possession.
"In the second half we did the things we did in practice every day during the season, we put Brownie at receiver, Dalton threw the ball great and got us back in it," Alge said.
"These guys were all in. I'm proud of these guys, they went down fighting but came up a little short."
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